Steinorth Will Leave Assembly And Seek Election As Second District Supervisor

In a development that seems likely to further advance the Democrats’ vise-like grip on the state legislature and governance in California, 40th District Assemblyman Marc Steinorth, R-Rancho Cucamonga, has dropped his bid for reelection in the state post and will instead seek election as Second District San Bernardino County supervisor.
Steinorth’s decision renders it quite likely that the 40th District Assembly position will go to current San Bernardino County Third District Supervisor James Ramos, a Democrat who declared his candidacy for the Assembly in January.
In California, both houses of the legislature at present have Democratic majorities and the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, controller and secretary of state are currently held by Democrats. Earlier this decade, both the California Assembly and the California Senate had memberships composed of more than two-thirds Democrats, giving the Democrats a so-called supermajority which deprived the Republicans of any parliamentary leverage with which to check Democratic legislative or gubernatorial agendas. That supermajority was broken with the removal of three Democratic office holders as the result of scandal or criminal wrongdoing on their part. In the upcoming 2018 elections, prospects are that the Democrats will reassert their supermajority in the legislature and maintain their dominant status among the major statewide elective officers.
San Bernardino County, which was for more than three decades a Republican stronghold, remained as one of the last bastions of the GOP in the Golden State, even after the registration of Democratic voters in the county eclipsed that of Republican voters, as the Republican political machine in the county continued to drive more Republican voters to the polls than did its less coordinated and organized county Democratic Party counterpart.
Steinorth’s presence in state office is an illustration of the Republican staying power in the face of growing Democratic numbers in San Bernardino County. He was a two-year veteran of the Rancho Cucamonga City Council when he ran in 2014 for Assembly in the 40th District, which had been reapportioned following the 2010 Census to comprise Rancho Cucamonga, Lytle Creek, Devore, a sparsely inhabited expense across the San Bernardino Mountain foothills, Highland, San Bernardino, Loma Linda, Redlands and Mentone. At that time, predominant registration in the 40th District was relatively evenly split between Republicans and Democrats at near 36 percent apiece, and Steinorth cruised to an easy victory over Democrat Kathleen Henry, who put on a lackluster campaign. Steinorth enjoyed the advantage of not only the San Bernardino County Republican political machine and his greater visibility and name recognition as a member of the Rancho Cucamonga City Council, but was also the owner of his own advertising and direct mail company, which gave him an understanding of the principles of disseminating public information and a command over the means for doing so.
Two years ago, in the run-up toward the June primary election, the Democrats had begun to open up what was a modest registration advantage over the Republicans in the 40th Assembly District, as 75,085 or 37.9 percent of the district’s 198,180 voters were registered as Democrats and 70,947 or 35.8 percent were registered Republicans. In the head-to-head June 2014 primary contest between Steinorth and San Bernardino City School District Board Member Abigail Medina, Medina prevailed with 36,524 votes or 50.49 percent to Steinorth’s 35,814 votes or 49.51 percent. Under the California Elections Code, primary elections are not final in runs for statewide office, and the two highest vote-getters advance to the November general election.
Between June and November 2016, the Democrats, sensing Steinorth was vulnerable, pumped more than $2.4 million into the effort to unseat him and advance Medina to the statehouse. That included an energetic voter registration drive to sign up voters oriented favorably toward the Democratic Party. By election day in November 2016, the Democrats had increased their 2.1 percent registration advantage over the Republicans in the 40th Assembly District to nearly four percent. But Steinorth, who was provided with $1.2 million by the Republican Party and independent expenditure committees – half of the budget Medina had to work with – used his experience and expertise to efficiently and wisely place his campaign shots, appealing to independent voters and those affiliated with non-mainstream parties. In the November run-off, he prevailed, capturing 76,537 votes or 50.64 percent to Medina’s 74,589 votes or 49.36 percent.
Since then, the registration advantage favoring the Democrats in the 40th District has grown, so that as of this week 89,219 or 40.2 percent of the district’s voters are Democrats and 73,212 or 33 percent of the district’s voters are Republicans.
In January, James Ramos, the one-time chairman of the San Manuel Indian Tribe who has been a member of the board of supervisors representing the Third District since 2012 and was the chairman of the board of supervisors in 2016 and 2017, moved to challenge Steinorth. Ramos embodies multiple advantages in his political ambition. While San Bernardino County is yet perceived as a Republican redoubt within Democratic California or at least remains a Republican-friendly place, the Democrats are clearly on the march within it. Of the county’s five districts, the First, comprising much of the desert, the Second, which includes all of Rancho Cucamonga, San Antonio Heights, north Upland, Mt. Baldy, Wrightwood and some of the mountain communities including Lake Arrowhead and Crestline, and the Third District, which involves Redlands, Highland, Big Bear, Loma Linda, Mentone, Yucaipa, Yucca Valley, Twentynine Palms and Barstow, are considered the remaining Republican holdouts. In both the Fourth and Fifth districts, voter registration is heavily weighted in favor of the Democrats. It is a testament to James Ramos’ appeal that the Republicans in the Third District have accepted him as their political leader. As a leading member of the San Manuel Tribe, which owns a casino, Ramos is entitled to a significant portion of that enterprise’s revenue. An unconfirmed report is that his share of the casino proceeds is $18,000 per day. Given his visibility, his elected position, his membership within the Democratic Party and the amicable relations he has with the county’s Republicans, topped by his wealth and his demonstrated willingness to use that wealth to achieve and maintain elected office, Ramos is considered a combination of an irresistible force and unmovable object within the context of San Bernardino County politics.
Steinorth, who at the outset of his political career was something of a Republican firebrand who espoused a conservative – and most particularly a fiscally conservative – philosophy, has found the need to tone down his rhetoric and find accommodation with the Democrats who rule the roost in Sacramento. Perhaps the most visible demonstration of that accommodation consisted of his decision last year to join a minority of Republicans in support of cap-and-trade legislation, a government regulatory program designed to limit, or cap, the total level of specific chemical by-products resulting from private business, primarily industrial and energy production, activity. Many Republicans are opposed to this type of regulation. With the Democrats advancing in the 40th District and many of the Republicans in the state sore at him for compromising with the Democrats, Steinorth opted last week to set a course for leaving Sacramento at the end of the year and trying to reinvent himself as a county supervisor.
Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford, like Steinorth a Republican, cut her political teeth as a member of the city council in Fontana and then vaulted into the Second District supervisorial post in 2010 by challenging and beating then supervisor Paul Biane, who had been weakened by his connection to scandal-tainted former supervisor Bill Postmus. Rutherford has played it relatively safe the last seven-and-a-half years, and is largely seen as a caretaker supervisor with few notable achievements. She has a reputation of acceding to county staff recommendations and accommodating the wishes of the cities within her jurisdiction even in the face of widespread constituent opposition to those agendas. This philosophy may have created difficulty for her when last year she supported the Upland City Council in its effort to impose on Upland’s citizens a tax without a vote through a move to close out the Upland municipal fire department, annex both Upland and neighboring San Antonio Heights into a county fire service/assessment district and then impose on those residents a $156 per year fire service assessment they previously had not been required to pay. This occurred in the face of overwhelming resident opposition to the move.
Steinorth is striking while the iron is hot, looking to dislodge his Republican opponent, who did not face a substantial challenge four years ago. Steinorth promises to give that to her this year.
The decision to depart Sacramento, Steinorth said, “was a tough decision. Serving in the Assembly has been an honor. I didn’t make this decision lightly and I put sweat equity into everything I commit myself to.”
Steinorth, the father of a nine-year-old and an 18-year-old, said, “My kids need me home, but my community still needs someone willing to get things done. For months now I’ve had good friends, workers, small business owners and law enforcement officers ask me to consider running for county supervisor because they just don’t feel like their voices are being heard.”
Steinorth said, “Since I was first elected to the Rancho Cucamonga City Council in 2012 and then to the Assembly in 2014, I’ve had more opportunities to benefit my community than I could ever dream. But I know I can do more. Last year alone, I fought $370 billion in new taxes, including the gas tax increase. I’ve fought to increase punishments for sex offenders and keep violent criminals in jail where they belong. I worked to make housing more affordable and the dream of home ownership a reality for all Californians. I worked to increase funding for career and technical training programs in our schools. I also worked on campaign finance reform to hold politicians accountable. I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished and the bipartisan matter in which it was done.”
Steinorth said he will be active in San Bernardino if sent there to represent the Second District.
“It’s no secret that San Bernardino County residents are tired of listening to rhetoric while crime increases, there’s a shortage of officers to keep us safe and the cost of living continues to skyrocket,” he said. “The number of officers on the streets hasn’t kept up with the demand due to the increase in crime. We deserve a representative with real world experience that isn’t just looking for their next paycheck. As the owner of a family run small business I’ve created thousands of jobs throughout my life and I don’t plan to stop now. Actions speak louder than words and I’ve taken action for our community.”
Steinorth referenced Rutherford’s support of the annexation of Upland and San Antonio Heights into a county service area and the accompanying $156 assessment imposed on residents without a vote.
“We don’t have a representative who is looking out for the taxpayers first,” Steinorth said. “In the Assembly I eliminated the illegal fire tax, but right here in our own county our representative voted to tax county residents for fire services. That’s wrong.”
Steinorth said, “When I first ran for city council, I did so to bring more businesses and jobs to Rancho Cucamonga. It didn’t take long for me to realize just how very few people in public service have any private sector experience, let alone have owned and operated a small business. I have, and I continue to do so today. I believe that small business experience is something our county needs and will benefit from. We don’t need more bureaucrats running things. We need normal people representing us who know how the real world works and can get things done.”
Steinorth said, “I’ve been effective and no one will ever outwork me. I invite everyone to join me in my campaign.”
Rutherford was not at her office when the Sentinel sought to engage with her about Steinorth’s candidacy.
Another candidate, San Antonio resident Ken Petschow, who was active in the effort to oppose the fire service assessment district annexation, has also taken out papers to run for Second District supervisor.
-Mark Gutglueck

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